September 3, 2013

Columbia’s Palmetto Compress offically for sale

The Columbia Development Corp., the quasi-public agency that owns the building for the city of Columbia, has issued a request for proposals from developers nationally. The deadline for replies is Sept. 18.

The historic Palmetto Compress Warehouse is officially on the market.

The Columbia Development Corp., the quasi-public agency that owns the building for the city of Columbia, has issued a request for proposals from developers nationally. The deadline for replies is Sept. 18.

So far, about 25 developers from as far away as Chicago have expressed interest in the nearly century-old, former cotton warehouse, said Fred Delk, the corporation’s executive director.

“There are some developers who have done things around Columbia before and some we’ve never heard of,” said Delk, whose organization encourages and guides investment in the Vista and other downtown areas. “I absolutely know I have serious people. I feel really good about it.”

Delk declined to name any of the developers and said none as yet has formally submitted a proposal. Once they do, a panel made up of development corporation board members and five city staffers will make recommendations to City Council. It is unclear when those proposals would be made public, Delk said.

“We’re accepting any kind of offer they might make,” he said. “But a purchase would be preferable. People have come through with some really interesting ideas for doing a building like this.”

The city in March gave the corporation a $7 million line of credit to purchase the 320,000-square-foot building. The purchase was made for $5.6 million. Less than $100,000 of the remaining $1.4 million has been used to prepare the building for sale, Delk said.

Delk said the money was used to complete structural, environmental and other studies that will be provided to a potential developer to help ensure that any redevelopment would conform to state, federal and local historic standards. Conforming to those standards would allow the developer to leverage substantial state and federal tax credits to help fund its renovation.

The building is in the National Register of Historic Places, which offers only minimal protection from demolition. The city plans to grant the building landmark status, which offers more protection.

The purchase of the building was spurred when an Ohio developer last year wanted to raze the structure to build an 800-bed student housing complex. The plan was turned back because a city board ruled that it didn’t conform to the USC Innovista Design Guidelines.

The city then purchased the building from the owners, who also threatened to demolish the building, saying they had tried to sell it for 25 years without success.

The warehouse is situated in USC’s Innovista research district, within walking distance of the new Darla Moore School of Business, the Colonial Center, Carolina Stadium and other downtown destinations.

Veteran Columbia developer Richard Burts, who renovated the dilapidated former Olympia and Granby mills community center into the successful 701 Whaley event and arts center, said the building’s location makes it desirable to developers.

“Its right in the middle of a lot of things,” he said. “The timing is right, and it’s really well placed.”

He said the building could house a mix of uses, perhaps with homes and offices on the top floors, and a hotel, bars or restaurants on the lower floors.

“It’s a building that has its challenges,” he said, “but the proper development team can overcome them,” Burts said.

What’s next for the Palmetto Compress building

The city of Columbia has put the historic Palmetto Compress Warehouse on the market. The city purchased the building for $5.6 million in March to prevent it from being razed. The warehouse is the last substantial remnant of Columbia’s cotton processing industry.

The city is accepting proposals from developers through Sept. 18.

A committee will examine the proposals and make a recommendation to City Council.

City Council will decide whether to lease or sell the building.

View the request for proposals and other information at

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